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In pictures: When the Beast from the East brought Tayside and Fife to a standstill

The Beast from the East brought Tayside and Fife to a standstill. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.
The Beast from the East brought Tayside and Fife to a standstill. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Do you remember The Beast from the East?

It’s hard to forget the 10 days of snow that dropped across Courier Country when Anticyclone Hartmut swept freezing winds from Siberia over the UK in 2018.

Arctic blizzards caused by sudden stratospheric warming combined with Storm Emma to create widespread chaos until the beginning of March.

Sub-zero temperatures brought major travel disruption to Tayside and Fife, closed hundreds of schools and left some communities completely cut off.

These dramatic images from our archives show just what happened when the beast sharpened its claws.

The Beast from the East

Reports of a “cold spell” first began to circulate on February 21 2018.

The Met Office warned that a flow of air, nicknamed the “Beast from the East”, would cause temperatures to plummet across Courier Country during the following week.

A homeless man was found shivering in a tent on Burntisland beach just days before the storm’s arrival.

Local man Darren Wapplington raised funds for the man to be housed in a warm hotel room until the snow had passed.

March 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Hotel owner Jason Borthwick offered a room at The Sands Hotel.

At the time he told The Courier: “The gesture has restored my faith in humanity.

“It’s fantastic that so many people got together so quickly to find a positive result for this man.

“He was delighted and very thankful and appreciative.”

Met Office warning

The Met Office said it was too early to predict the exact impact of the freezing weather throughout Scotland, however at the time the meteorologists did predict the coming temperatures.

They told The Courier in 2018: “For the rest of this week it is nothing special really — there is plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures to start with but it will become a little bit colder each day.

“More interesting weather will arrive on Sunday and Monday.

“We are expecting some quite strong eastern winds from Russia and Eastern Europe.

“It is quite likely that for a big chunk of next week and the week after there will be very cold temperatures and frequent snow showers.

Evelyn Terrace, Perth. February 28 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

“I feel confident there will be snow in Dundee. Because there is going to be an eastern flow, there will be showers on the eastern side of Scotland.

“Temperatures will be cold enough for showers to definitely fall as snow.

“It is too early to talk about how much, but there will be some.

“We’re fairly confident we’re going to see a significant cold spell. There will be maximums of 1C or 2C and minimums of -5C in towns and cities.”

In fact, temperatures would reach even further lows.

Area placed on red alert

Winds recorded at minus 50 blew in from Siberia on February 22.

It was the country’s coldest winter in five years.

Around 50cm of snow fell across Courier Country on that first night.

Many of the narrow roads and streets blocked as the weather refused to let up.

Temperatures remained below freezing when the sun rose the next day.

Some areas of Tayside reached lows of minus eight, with other regions reaching minus five.

City Centre, Dundee. February 27 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

The Met Office released a red weather warning almost immediately.

More than 1,600 schools were closed, however Dundee City Council said the city’s schools would remain open.

The announcement sparked fierce criticism from angry parents, who refused to take their children to school in the treacherous conditions.

ScotRail cancelled several of its services between Glenrothes and Edinburgh.

Widespread power cuts and travel disruptions added to the chaos.

Angus Sangster uses telemark skis to get around the streets of Carnoustie during the snow storms. March 1 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

All school transport was cancelled in Angus due to the adverse weather, and all schools were closed.

Forfar Ice Rink was also forced to close.

The region suffered widespread disruption to bin collections.

Vehicles were initially despatched from depots in Angus were unable to complete their duties due to the severe winter weather.

Kirriemuir Recycling Centre was also forced to close due to safety concerns regarding access in and out of the site.

Solicitor Richard Gray (Craigie, Perth) clearing his car for work. Glenlyon Road, Perth. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Several accidents were reported in the Hilltown area of Dundee.

In one incident, a car skidded on the icy roads and crashed into a nearby post.

Police advise against travelling

A couple of hours later, three people ran off after the car they were driving flipped on to its roof at the foot of the Hilltown in the exact same place as the previous incident.

On the A90, a lorry crashed into the back of a Royal Mail vehicle.

A plough clearing pavements on Strathern Road, Dundee. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Police Scotland advised against all but essential travel.

Those who had to venture out were advised to take provisions – warm clothing, food, water, and a charged mobile phone.

Thousands of drivers who ignored the weather warning were left stranded on the roads in freezing temperatures.

Blizzards meant delivery vans were unable to get through and some residents were without provisions.

A tractor clearing deep snow drifts on Balmossie Brae allowing vehicles access to houses. March 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Villages in Fife were some of the worst affected.

Robert Barr, 63, who runs the Purple Shop in Aberdour’s Main Street, told The Courier at the time: “The shop’s been as busy at it would be on the hottest day of the year.

“We’ve plenty of groceries but no rolls, papers, bread or milk.

“The rolls come from Glenrothes but they got stuck at Kinghorn.

“We get milk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but we ran out yesterday.”

Worst still to come

However, the worst was yet to come.

Storm Emma arrived at the beginning of March and brought with it a further seven centimetres of snow.

The Met Office warned of the possibility of freezing rain as temperatures continued to drop.

The Kingspark site was flooded after the recent ‘Beast from the East’. Image: Supplied.

Gusts of up to 40mph made the air feel as cold as minus nine.

Snow would drop through varying temperatures in the atmosphere, melting and refreezing on its descent, before encountering a layer of colder air near the ground.

On impact, the rain droplets would reach below freezing levels and damage roads, pavements, and power cables.

Dundee was plunged into its first ever lockdown.

South Street, Perth. March 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Kirkton, Douglas, Charleston and Ardler Libraries were all closed.

Community centres and school-based sport and swim centres.

Discovery Point and Dundee Airport also closed.

NHS Tayside considered cancelling non-emergency surgeries.

Other closures include the city’s Cineworld and Odeon multiplexes.

The Overgate, Wellgate and several shops in the city centre were also shut.

Tesco’s Kingsway West supermarket was also left without supplies after lorries were trapped on the motorway network.

People sledging at Gillies Park. March 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Spirits remained high

With further dangers potentially still to come, the people from Courier Country didn’t let it dampen their spirits.

The storm brought communities together as people came together to keep each other warm and help clear the roads.

The odd snowball fight would help keep spirits high in the face of uncertain dangers.

From gritter operators and shopkeepers going the extra mile to get goods in, thousands played a part in keeping the region moving.

John Mackie (aged 6, from Inchview Primary School) having fun in the snow on walk to school. South Inch, Perth. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Temperatures slowly started to rise on March 4.

However, it wasn’t the welcome relief many had expected.

The snow melting, combined with high tides, led to severe flooding in the East Neuk of Fife.

Stagecoach buses cancelled its services in Fife.

Frozen pipes across the region thawed in the warmer temperatures – then burst.

Some areas were left temporarily without water while repairs were made.

As the region started to piece itself back together, 17 deaths were confirmed across the UK.

City Centre, Dundee. February 2018. Image: DC Thomson.

Several heavy storms have occurred in the region across the years, including the Big Freeze in 1963.

In 1979, two teenagers were rescued on January 3 by the Broughty Ferry inshore lifeboat near Kingoodie, after they became stuck on a drifting slab of ice.

Lows of -9.4C were recorded in Dundee in January and February of that year.

Later the same month, blizzard conditions hit Tayside with about 12 inches of snow reported in Perth.